Former prime minister Paul Keating lobbed an unsolicited op-ed piece in to The Australian, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald
late yesterday afternoon – and by this morning several hundred thousand
Australians were finally alerted to the threat to democracy posed by
the federal government’s proposed changes to media regulation.

As Keating wrote in his story:

  • “The Government’s apparent decision to close down any option
    for new free-to-air television outlets or multiple channels while
    removing the existing cross-media laws and foreign ownership
    restrictions is a recipe for massive media concentration and further
    abuses of power by the existing network owners.”

  • “Such a change would see the potential for the greatest and
    most unseemly concentration of media in Australia’s history. And if
    people think they have seen exercises in media power already, it will
    be as nothing like it may be should these two corporations have their
    way unfettered.”

  • “The simple point is that John Howard does not have to do this.
    The pressure for this comes only from Publishing and Broadcasting, News
    Limited and the loitering Fairfax.”

  • “Proposed policy changes of this kind are always sold on phoney
    arguments and an almighty sleight of hand. The phoney argument goes to
    how digital convergence is changing traditional media and
    communications and how in the technical determinism of it, as night
    follows day, traditional print and television companies ought be
    permitted to merge.”

  • “Nobody should be seeking obscurantist curbs on the
    proliferation of communication channels and media whether of the
    Blackberry variety or more cable channels. But there is a cut and dried
    case with nought to do with convergence in respect of the big
    traditional print and TV outlets.”

  • “What is proposed is a bit of dirty home-town play for the
    principal benefit of the major incumbents. In practice, were these
    changes to come about, ordinary bods would need the Packer and Murdoch
    organisations to stamp their passports for their free movement through
    Australian society. Not as dire as in the days of the Völkischer Beobachter but heading in that direction.”

CRIKEY: Let the debate and the opposition begin – for the sake of Australian democracy.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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